Senate committee kills wildlife bill
Glenwood Springs correspondent
A bill aimed at protecting wildlife crossing Highway 82 and other dangerous roadways got run over by a Senate committee Wednesday.
The bill would have doubled fines for speeding and other moving traffic violations in designated wildlife crossing areas, including two spots on Highway 82 in the lower Roaring Fork Valley.
It had earlier passed in the House but was defeated in a 4-3 vote by the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
“It becomes kind of a rural issue, and rural legislators are who fight it the hardest, and I don’t understand why,” said state Rep. Mary Hodge, an Adams County Democrat who has tried three times to get the bill passed.
The Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Wool Growers Association and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association all opposed the bill. So did state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, who sits on the committee that killed the bill and whose district includes the lower Roaring Fork Valley. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Some local supporters included Frosty Merriott, a member of Carbondale’s environmental board, and Kyle Zajac, a Basalt High School junior.
“There’s not enough in place right now to prevent people from going really, really fast at night and hitting deer,” Zajac said.
He is working with some other Basalt High students on trying to reduce wildlife deaths on Highway 82 as part of Project Citizen, a class program aimed at getting involved with government to try to bring about change.
The bill proposed creating a pilot program targeting 28 miles along 12 problem highways around the state. One targeted area runs between mile markers 8 to 10 in the Aspen Glen area, where an annual average of 37 accidents involving wildlife occur per mile. Another area includes mile markers 20 and 22 in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley.
“We’ve really got a pretty good problem all the way to Aspen,” Merriott said. “It’s just getting worse. It’s such a waste, it seems like.”
A third targeted area is on Interstate 70 in Eagle County, at mile markers 158 and 165.
Other counties with targeted areas include Jefferson, with three areas, and Boulder, Costilla, Rio Grande, Moffat, Montrose and La Plata counties.
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